All throughout the fall and winter, evidence continued to mount that Stefon Diggs and the Vikings were in a relationship that wouldn’t last. Tensions, in fact, had been building for close to a year before Monday’s blockbuster trade with the Bills.
As our Ben Goessling wrote a while back, after Diggs was fined $200,000 for missing practices after a Week 4 loss to the Bears: “His absence, sources told the Star Tribune at the time, stemmed from frustrations that had been building since the spring over the direction of the offense and his role in it.
Diggs returned and addressed the media, but it hardly cleared the air. Among the most concrete things he said was this in response to whether he wanted to be traded: “I feel like there’s truth to all rumors, no matter how you dress it up. I won’t be saying nothing on it. I won’t be speaking on it all. But there is truth to all rumors, I guess.”
He blamed a minor, cold-like illness on his practice absence, which was clearly not true. A few days later, when I asked if he was feeling better, he smiled and produced a fake cough.
The Vikings managed to finesse a productive final 12 games from Diggs — a huge deal in propelling the team to a playoff berth while preserving the job security of Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and paving the way for Kirk Cousins’ extension, which also happened Monday.
But once the offseason started, the veiled quotes became veiled tweets. Among the gems Diggs left on Twitter over the past couple months:
“Some things are better left unsaid …”
“I don’t forget or forgive …”
“I hate people that do you wrong then try to play the victim …”
“People don’t appreciate things until they’re gone …”
That led to the scouting combine, where Spielman infamously said, “there’s no reason to anticipate [Diggs] is not going to be a Minnesota Viking.”
A lot of Vikings fans and observers agreed with Spielman: nothing to see here, Diggs is just loving the drama.
But all of this is a lesson in two parts.
First, it’s an application of Occam’s razor, which is often described in shorthand as “the simplest answer is most often correct.” Even in its more intended use a “process of paring down information to make finding the truth easier,” it applies here.
The simplest answer if we weighed all the evidence is that Diggs wasn’t happy and that he was likely to be traded. We could construct counter-arguments, but they didn’t seem to carry as much weight.
The second part: heed the warning of George Orwell, who wrote in 1984, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.”
In this case, the Vikings are “the party,” though obviously Spielman’s objective wasn’t anywhere near as sinister as that in the Orwell’s Dystopian novel.
Teams create leverage, or a least markets, all the time by insisting they aren’t going to trade players who clearly seem to be headed toward that resolution. Desperation collapses the market, and it looks like enough teams — or at least one, the Buffalo Bills — believed the Vikings weren’t desperate to trade Diggs.
Spielman, then, was able to get a very nice haul — four total draft picks, including a first-rounder this year — for Diggs. He threaded the needle quite nicely, in fact, by getting valuable production out of Diggs in 2019 amid the turmoil and still managing to find value in a trade as the Vikings realign for 2020. He did his job well.
If you trusted your eyes and ears, though, your senses told you that Diggs was actually quite likely to be traded.
Things were, as they often are, exactly as they seemed — a good reminder in football and life in 2020.